Title:
IMAGEABLE ELEMENTS WITH COALESCING CORE-SHELL PARTICLES
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Single layer IR-sensitive negative-working imageable elements include thermally coalesceable core-shell particles without a polymeric binder in an imageable layer. Thermal imaging causes coalescence of the particles in imaged regions while non-imaged regions can be removed with plain water or an aqueous solution containing an acidic polymer.



Inventors:
Jarek, Mathias (Northeim, DE)
Application Number:
12/017366
Publication Date:
07/23/2009
Filing Date:
01/22/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
430/270.1, 430/281.1, 430/302, 101/463.1
International Classes:
G03F7/004; B41M5/00; B41N1/08; G03F7/12
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
FREEMAN, SHEMA TAIAN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
EASTMAN KODAK COMPANY (ROCHESTER, NY, US)
Claims:
1. An imageable element comprising a hydrophilic substrate, and having thereon a single thermally-sensitive imageable layer comprising an infrared radiation absorbing compound and core-shell particles that coalesce upon thermal imaging, wherein the core of said core-shell particles is composed of a hydrophobic polymer, the shell of said core-shell particles is composed of a hydrophilic polymer that is covalently bonded to said core hydrophobic polymer, said hydrophilic polymer comprises acidic groups having a degree of neutralization of from about 5% to about 95%, wherein, before thermal imaging, said thermally-sensitive imageable layer is soluble or dispersible in an aqueous solution comprising a poly(meth)acrylic acid that is partially or fully neutralized, or a maleic acid copolymer, and wherein said thermally-sensitive imageable layer comprises less than 20 weight % of free polymeric binder.

2. The element of claim 1 wherein said imageable layer comprises less than 10 weight % of free polymeric binder.

3. The element of claim 1 wherein said core hydrophobic polymer has a glass transition temperature greater than 40° C.

4. The element of claim 1 wherein said core hydrophobic polymer comprises one or more polystyrenes, poly(meth)acrylates, polymethylenelactones, polyvinyl chloride, poly(meth)acrylonitriles, polyvinyl esters, polysulfones, polycarbonates, polyurethanes, and polyamides.

5. The element of claim 1 wherein said core-shell particles have an average particle size of from about 25 to about 150 nm.

6. The element of claim 1 wherein the shell of said core-shell particles has an average thickness of from about 1 to about 5 nm and comprises from about 5 to about 25% of the volume of said core-shell particles, on average, and said core has an average size of from about 20 to about 120 nm.

7. The element of claim 1 wherein said shell comprises a polymer comprising recurring units derived from a (meth)acrylamide, vinyl imidazole, N-(meth)acryloyltetrazole, vinyl pyrrolidone, or mixtures thereof.

8. The element of claim 1 wherein said shell polymer is derived from one or more (meth)acrylic acids, sulfonated (meth)acrylates, (poly)ethylene glycol (meth)acrylate phosphates, vinyl phosphonic acid, or mixtures thereof and, in combination with one or more (meth)acrylamides.

9. The element of claim 1 wherein said hydrophilic shell polymer is covalently bonded to said hydrophobic core polymer through reactive (meth)acrylic acid groups in said hydrophobic core polymer.

10. The element of claim 1 wherein said core-shell particles comprise at least 50 weight % of the total imageable layer dry weight.

11. The element of claim 1 wherein said infrared radiation absorbing compound is present in said single thermally-sensitive imageable layer in an amount of from about 5 to about 30%, based on the total imageable layer dry weight.

12. The element of claim 1 wherein said thermally-sensitive imageable layer is soluble or dispersible in water.

13. A method of providing an image comprising: A) thermally imaging the imageable element of claim 1 to provide an imaged element with exposed regions and non-exposed regions, said exposed regions comprising coalesced core-shell particles, and B) developing said imaged element to remove only said non-exposed regions with an aqueous solution other than an alkaline developer.

14. The method of claim 13 wherein said imaging is carried out using an infrared laser at a wavelength of from about 700 to about 1400 nm.

15. The method of claim 13 wherein said aqueous solution used for developing is water.

16. The method of claim 13 wherein said aqueous solution used for developing has a pH of from about 7 to about 13 and comprises a poly(meth)acrylic acid that is partially or fully neutralized, or a maleic acid copolymer, or mixture thereof.

17. The method of claim 13 wherein said imageable element is a lithographic printing plate precursor and has an aluminum-containing substrate having a hydrophilic surface, said coalesceable core-shell particles comprising at least 50 weight % of the total imageable layer dry weight and have an average particle size of from about 30 to about 100 nm, said imageable layer comprises less than 5 weight % of free polymeric binder, and said element comprising an infrared radiation absorbing compound that is present in said single thermally-sensitive imageable layer in an amount of from about 5 to about 30%, based on the total imageable layer dry weight.

18. The method of claim 17 wherein the shell of said core-shell particles has an average thickness of from about 1 to about 5 nm and comprises from about 5 to about 25% of the volume of said core-shell particles, on average, said shell comprises a polymer comprising recurring units derived from a (meth)acrylamide, vinyl imidazole, N-(meth)acryloyltetrazole, vinyl pyrrolidone, or mixtures thereof, and said hydrophilic shell polymer is covalently bonded to said hydrophobic core polymer through reactive (meth)acrylic acid groups in said hydrophobic core polymer, and said core has an average size of from about 30 to about 100 nm.

19. The method of claim 18 wherein said shell polymer is derived from one or more (meth)acrylic acids, sulfonated (meth)acrylates, (poly)ethylene glycol (meth)acrylate phosphates, vinyl phosphonic acid, or mixtures thereof and, in combination with one or more (meth)acrylamides.

20. The method of claim 13 wherein said imageable element is not heated after said development.

21. A lithographic printing plate having an aluminum-containing substrate comprising a hydrophilic surface that is prepared by the method of claim 13.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to negative-working imageable elements that use thermally coalesceable core-shell particles in the imageable layer to provide a hydrophobic image surface. The imaged element can be developer without alkaline developers. This invention also relates to methods of using these imageable elements.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

In conventional or “wet” lithographic printing, ink receptive regions, known as image areas, are generated on a hydrophilic surface. When the surface is moistened with water and ink is applied, the hydrophilic regions retain the water and repel the ink, and the ink receptive regions accept the ink and repel the water. The ink is transferred to the surface of a material upon which the image is to be reproduced. For example, the ink can be first transferred to an intermediate blanket that in turn is used to transfer the ink to the surface of the material upon which the image is to be reproduced.

Imageable elements useful to prepare lithographic printing plates typically comprise one or more imageable layers applied over the hydrophilic surface of a substrate. The imageable layers include one or more radiation-sensitive components that can be dispersed in a suitable binder. Alternatively, the radiation-sensitive component can also be the binder material. Following imaging, either the imaged regions or the non-imaged regions of the imageable layer are removed by a suitable developer, revealing the underlying hydrophilic surface of the substrate. If the imaged regions are removed, the element is considered as positive-working. Conversely, if the non-imaged regions are removed, the element is considered as negative-working. In each instance, the regions of the imageable layer (that is, the image areas) that remain are ink-receptive, and the regions of the hydrophilic surface revealed by the developing process accept water and aqueous solutions, typically a fountain solution, and repel ink.

Direct digital imaging has become increasingly important in the printing industry. Imageable elements for the preparation of lithographic printing plates have been developed for use with infrared lasers that image in response to signals from a digital copy of the image in a computer a platesetter. This “computer-to-plate” technology has generally replaced the former technology where masking films were used to image the elements.

Thermal imaging has especially become important with digital imaging systems because of their stability to ambient light. The elements are designed to be sensitive to heat or infrared radiation and can be exposed using thermal heads or more usually, infrared laser diodes. Heat that is generated from this exposure can be used in a number of ways, for example, ablation to physical remove imaged areas, polymerization of photosensitive compositions, insolubilization by crosslinking polymers, rendering polymers alkaline solution soluble, decomposition, or coagulation of thermoplastic particles. Most of these imaging techniques require the use of alkaline developers to remove exposed (positive-working) or non-exposed (negative-working) regions of the imaged layer(s).

Thermally meltable or fusable particles having surface functional groups have been used in imageable elements as described for example, in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,218,073 (Shimizu et al.), 6,509,133 (Watanabe et al.), and 6,627,380 (Saito et al.). Other meltable polymeric particles are described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,692,890 (Huang et al.).

Coalesceable thermoplastic polymeric particles dispersed within hydrophilic binders in imageable elements are described, for example, in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,030,750 (Vermeersch et al.) and 6,110,644 (Vermeersch et al.).

Core-shell particles are used in imageable layers according to U.S. Pat. No. 5,609,980 (Matthews et al.) and coalesce upon thermal imaging. The shell of the particles is soluble or swellable in aqueous media.

EP 514,145A1 (Matthews et al.) describes thermally-sensitive imageable elements containing heat-softenable core-shell particles in the imaging layer. Such particles coalesce upon heating and the non-coalesced particles are removed using an alkaline developer. The shells of these particles are specifically non-water soluble.

A similar composition is described in EP 1,642,714A1 (Wilkinson et al.) in which the core-shell particles are dispersed within a hydrophilic binder. Non-exposed particles are removed using a gum solution instead of an alkaline developer.

PROBLEM TO BE SOLVED

As noted in several references, coalesceable core-shell particles are known for use in imageable elements for some time, but those particles are usually dispersed in hydrophilic binders. Moreover, imaged elements having such particles often must be developed in alkaline solutions such as common developers or with gum solutions. There is a need to provide imageable elements with coalesceable particles that can be developed using water or simple aqueous solutions.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides an imageable element comprising a hydrophilic substrate, and having thereon a single thermally-sensitive imageable layer comprising an infrared radiation absorbing compound and core-shell particles that coalesce upon thermal imaging,

wherein the core of the core-shell particles is composed of a hydrophobic polymer,

the shell of the core-shell particles is composed of a hydrophilic polymer that is covalently bonded to the core hydrophobic polymer,

the hydrophilic polymer comprises acidic groups having a degree of neutralization of from about 5% to about 95%,

wherein, before thermally imaging, the thermally-sensitive imageable layer is soluble or dispersible in an aqueous solution comprising a poly(meth)acrylic acid that is partially or fully neutralized, or a maleic acid copolymer, and

wherein the thermally-sensitive imageable layer comprises less than 20 weight % of free polymeric binder.

In addition, this invention provides a method of providing an image comprising:

A) thermally imaging the imageable element of this invention to provide an imaged element with exposed regions and non-exposed regions, the exposed regions comprising coalesced core-shell particles, and

B) developing the imaged element to remove only the non-exposed regions with an aqueous solution other than an alkaline developer.

In some embodiments of the method, the imageable element is a lithographic printing plate precursor and has a aluminum-containing substrate having a hydrophilic surface,

the coalesceable core-shell particles comprising at least 50 weight % of the total imageable layer dry weight and have an average particle size of from about 35 to about 110 nm,

the imageable layer comprises less than 5 weight % of free polymeric binder, and

the element comprising an infrared radiation absorbing compound that is present in the single thermally-sensitive imageable layer in an amount of from about 5 to about 30%, based on the total imageable layer dry weight.

In other embodiments of the method, the shell of the core-shell particles has an average thickness of from about 1 to about 5 nm and comprises from about 5 to about 25% of the volume core-shell particles, on average,

the shell comprises a polymer comprising recurring units derived from a (meth)acrylamide, vinyl imidazole, N-(meth)acryloyltetrazole, vinyl pyrrolidone, or mixtures thereof, and

the hydrophilic shell polymer is covalently bonded to the hydrophobic core polymer through unreacted methacrylic acid groups in the hydrophobic core polymer.

The invention also provides a lithographic printing plate having an aluminum-containing substrate comprising a hydrophilic surface using the method of this invention.

The imageable elements of this invention contain a single imageable layer containing thermally coalesceable core-shell particles that can be at least partially coalesced during thermal imaging. The non-imaged regions of the imageable layer are readily removed using water or simple polymer solutions and do not require the use of common alkaline developers or gum solutions.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Definitions

Unless the context indicates otherwise, when used herein, the terms “imageable element”, “negative-working imageable element”, and “lithographic printing plate precursor” are meant to be references to embodiments of the present invention.

In addition, unless the context indicates otherwise, the various components described herein such as “core-shell particles”, “infrared radiation absorbing compound”, and similar terms also refer to mixtures of such components. Thus, the use of the article “a” or “an” is not necessarily meant to refer to only a single component.

By “single-layer” imageable element, we mean an imageable element of this invention that has only a single layer needed for providing an image. The core-shell particles (defined below) would be located in this single imageable layer that is usually the outermost layer. However, such elements may comprise additional non-imaging layers on either side of the substrate and underneath the imageable layer.

Unless otherwise indicated, percentages refer to percents by dry weight.

For clarification of definitions for any terms relating to polymers, reference should be made to “Glossary of Basic Terms in Polymer Science” as published by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (“IUPAC”), Pure Appl. Chem. 68, 2287-2311 (1996). However, any definitions explicitly set forth herein should be regarded as controlling.

Unless otherwise indicated, the term “polymer” refers to high and low molecular weight polymers including oligomers and includes homopolymers and copolymers.

The term “copolymer” refers to polymers that are derived from two or more different monomers. That is, they comprise recurring units having at least two different chemical structures.

The term “backbone” refers to the chain of atoms in a polymer to which a plurality of pendant groups can be attached. An example of such a backbone is an “all carbon” backbone obtained from the polymerization of one or more ethylenically unsaturated polymerizable monomers. However, other backbones can include heteroatoms wherein the polymer is formed by a condensation reaction or some other means.

Uses

The imageable elements described herein can be used in a number of ways such as precursors to lithographic printing plates as described in more detail below. However, this is not meant to be their only use. For example, the imageable elements can also be used as thermal patterning systems or to form masking elements and printed circuit boards.

Core-Shell Particles

The core-shell particles used in the practice of this invention typically have a hydrophobic polymer core containing one or more hydrophobic polymers. The useful hydrophobic polymers are “thermoplastic” meaning that they generally have a glass transition temperature of at least 40° C. or typically of at least 50° C. and thus can be melted or coalesced during thermal imaging that provides heating at a suitable temperature above the glass transition temperature. Useful hydrophobic thermoplastic polymers include, but are not limited to polystyrenes, poly(meth)acrylates, polymethylenelactone, poly(meth)acrylonitrile, polyvinyl chloride, polyvinyl esters, polysulfone, polycarbonate, polyurethane, and polyamides. Representative polymers in these classes include polystyrene, poly(methyl methacrylate), poly[methyl (meth)acrylate], polymethylenelactone, poly[(meth)acrylonitrile], and polyvinyl chloride.

The core generally has an average diameter of from about 20 to about 120 nm and typically from about 30 to about 100 nm, and the volume of the core polymer(s) comprises from about 75 to about 95% of the particle volume.

The shell of the useful core-shell particles is composed of one or more hydrophilic polymers that have reactive groups that can bond with the hydrophobic polymer(s) of the core. In some instances, the shell polymers are “hydrophilic” in the sense that they are more water-loving than the core polymer(s). For example, the shell polymers can contain acidic groups, such as carboxy, sulfo, or phospho groups that have been partially or fully neutralized with a suitable base such as a hydroxide. For example, the shell polymers can contain carboxy groups and from about 5 to about 80 mol % of the carboxy groups have been neutralized with sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, or ammonium hydroxide. Thus, the shell polymer(s) can be derived at least in part from (meth)acrylic acid, tetrazole (meth)acrylate, (poly)ethylene glycol (meth)acrylate phosphates, phosphate (meth)acrylates, cyclic urea methacrylate (Plex-O 6850) vinyl phosphonic acid, and sulfonated (meth)acrylates, in combination with one or more (meth)acrylamides.

In some embodiments, the shell comprises a polymer comprising recurring units derived from a (meth)acrylamide, vinyl imidazole, N-(meth)acryloyltetrazole, vinyl pyrrolidone, or mixtures thereof.

In other embodiments, the shell polymer is derived from one or more of (meth)acrylic acid, sulfonated (meth)acrylate, phosphate (meth)acrylate, vinyl phosphonic acid, or mixtures thereof and, and one or more (meth)acrylamides.

It is desirable that the hydrophilic shell polymer be covalently bonded to the hydrophobic core polymer through reactive (meth)acrylic acid groups in the hydrophobic core polymer.

The shell thickness is generally from about 1 to about 5 nm and generally comprises from about 5 to about 25% of the volume of the core-shell particles, on average (some particles may be less than 5% and others more than 25%, but the average volume is within the noted range). The shell is believed to entirely cover the core of most or all particles, but there may be some particles in which the shell only partially covers the core.

The resulting core-shell particles generally have an average particle size of from about 25 to about 150 nm or from about 35 to about 110 nm.

The core-shell particles are generally prepared as dispersions as described for the Examples below. Generally, the core polymer is formed by emulsion or suspension polymerization using known reactants and conditions to provide an initial dispersion. After a suitable period of reaction, monomers and free radical initiators are added to the dispersion to form the shell polymer(s) around the individual polymer cores. The core-shell dispersions may be naturally stable from sedimentation, or surfactants can be added to stabilize the core-shell particles for a suitable time.

Some polymers used to form the shells may be highly water soluble, and so the resulting dispersions may also include free “shell” polymer suspended in the reaction medium.

Other polymers used to form the shells are less water soluble and very little or no free polymer is suspended in the reaction medium. Such polymers are useful because removal of free polymer is not necessary.

Imageable Elements

The imageable elements include the coalesceable core-shell particles described above in the single and outermost imageable layer.

In general, single-layer imageable elements are formed by suitable application of an imageable layer formulation containing the coalesceable core-shell particles to a suitable substrate to form an imageable layer. This substrate is usually treated or coated in various ways as described below prior to application of the formulation. The substrate can be treated to provide an “interlayer” for improved adhesion or hydrophilicity, and the single imageable layer is applied over the interlayer.

The substrate generally has a hydrophilic surface, or at least a surface that is more hydrophilic than the applied imageable layer formulation on the imaging side. The substrate comprises a support that can be composed of any material that is conventionally used to prepare imageable elements such as lithographic printing plates. It is usually in the form of a sheet, film, or foil, and is strong, stable, and flexible and resistant to dimensional change under conditions of use so that color records will register a full-color image. Typically, the support can be any self-supporting material including polymeric films (such as polyester, polyethylene, polycarbonate, cellulose ester polymer, and polystyrene films), glass, ceramics, metal sheets or foils, or stiff papers (including resin-coated and metallized papers), or a lamination of any of these materials (such as a lamination of an aluminum foil onto a polyester film). Metal supports include sheets or foils of aluminum, copper, zinc, titanium, and alloys thereof.

Polymeric film supports may be modified on one or both surfaces with a “subbing” layer to enhance hydrophilicity, or paper supports may be similarly coated to enhance planarity. Examples of subbing layer materials include but are not limited to, alkoxysilanes, amino-propyltriethoxysilanes, glycidioxypropyl-triethoxysilanes, and epoxy functional polymers, as well as conventional hydrophilic subbing materials used in silver halide photographic films (such as gelatin and other naturally occurring and synthetic hydrophilic colloids and vinyl polymers including vinylidene chloride copolymers).

A useful substrate is composed of an aluminum-containing support having a hydrophilic surface that may be coated or treated using techniques known in the art, including physical graining, electrochemical graining, chemical graining, and anodizing. For example, the aluminum sheet can be anodized using phosphonic acid or sulfuric acid using conventional procedures.

An optional interlayer may be formed by treatment of the aluminum support with, for example, a silicate, dextrine, calcium zirconium fluoride, hexafluorosilicic acid, phosphate/fluoride, poly(vinyl phosphonic acid) (PVPA), vinyl phosphonic acid-acrylic acid copolymer, poly(acrylic acid), or (meth)acrylic acid copolymer, or mixtures thereof. For example, the grained and/or anodized aluminum support can be treated with poly(phosphonic acid) using known procedures to improve surface hydrophilicity to provide a lithographic hydrophilic substrate.

The thickness of the substrate can be varied but should be sufficient to sustain the wear from printing and thin enough to wrap around a printing form. Such embodiments typically include a treated aluminum foil having a thickness of from about 100 to about 600 μm.

The backside (non-imaging side) of the substrate may be coated with antistatic agents and/or slipping layers or a matte layer to improve handling and “feel” of the imageable element.

The substrate can also be a cylindrical surface having the radiation-sensitive composition applied thereon, and thus be an integral part of the printing press or a sleeve that is incorporated onto a press cylinder. The use of such imaged cylinders is described for example in U.S. Pat. No. 5,713,287 (Gelbart).

The imageable element also includes one or more radiation absorbing compounds. While these compounds can be sensitive to any suitable energy form (for example, UV or visible radiation), they are usually sensitive to infrared radiation and thus, the radiation absorbing compounds can be infrared radiation absorbing compounds (“IR absorbing compounds”) that absorb radiation from about 600 to about 1400 nm and typically from about 700 to about 1200 nm.

Examples of suitable IR dyes include but are not limited to, azo dyes, squarylium dyes, triarylamine dyes, thioazolium dyes, indolium dyes, oxonol dyes, oxazolium dyes, cyanine dyes, merocyanine dyes, phthalocyanine dyes, indocyanine dyes, indotricarbocyanine dyes, hemicyanine dyes, streptocyanine dyes, oxatricarbocyanine dyes, thiocyanine dyes, thiatricarbocyanine dyes, merocyanine dyes, cryptocyanine dyes, naphthalocyanine dyes, polyaniline dyes, polypyrrole dyes, polythiophene dyes, chalcogenopyryloarylidene and bi(chalcogenopyrylo)-polymethine dyes, oxyindolizine dyes, pyrylium dyes, pyrazoline azo dyes, oxazine dyes, naphthoquinone dyes, anthraquinone dyes, quinoneimine dyes, methine dyes, arylmethine dyes, polymethine dyes, squaraine dyes, oxazole dyes, croconine dyes, porphyrin dyes, and any substituted or ionic form of the preceding dye classes. Suitable dyes are described for example, in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,973,572 (DeBoer), 5,208,135 (Patel et al.), 5,244,771 (Jandrue Sr. et al.), and 5,401,618 (Chapman et al.), and EP 0 823 327A1 (Nagasaka et al.).

Cyanine dyes having an anionic chromophore are also useful. For example, the cyanine dye may have a chromophore having two heterocyclic groups. In another embodiment, the cyanine dye may have at least two sulfonic acid groups, more particularly two sulfonic acid groups and two indolenine groups. Useful IR-sensitive cyanine dyes of this type are described for example in U.S. Patent Application Publication 2005-0130059 (Tao). A general description of one class of suitable cyanine dyes is shown by the formula in paragraph 0026 of WO 2004/101280 (Munnelly et al.).

Near infrared absorbing cyanine dyes are also useful and are described for example in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,309,792 (Hauck et al.), 6,264,920 (Achilefu et al.), 6,153,356 (Urano et al.), 5,496,903 (Watanate et al.). Suitable dyes may be formed using conventional methods and starting materials or obtained from various commercial sources including American Dye Source (Baie D'Urfe, Quebec, Canada) and FEW Chemicals (Germany). Other useful dyes for near infrared diode laser beams are described, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 4,973,572 (noted above).

Useful IR absorbing compounds include various pigments including carbon blacks such as carbon blacks that are surface-functionalized with solubilizing groups are well known in the art. Carbon blacks that are grafted to hydrophilic, nonionic polymers, such as FX-GE-003 (manufactured by Nippon Shokubai), or which are surface-functionalized with anionic groups, such as CAB-O-JET® 200 or CAB-O-JET® 300 (manufactured by the Cabot Corporation) are also useful. Other useful pigments include, but are not limited to, Heliogen Green, Nigrosine Base, iron (III) oxides, manganese oxide, Prussian Blue, and Paris Blue. The size of the pigment particles should not be more than the thickness of the imageable layer.

The radiation absorbing compound is generally present in the imageable element in an amount sufficient to render the thermally-sensitive imageable layer insoluble to an aqueous developer after exposure to appropriate radiation. This amount is generally at least 1% and up to 30 weight % and typically from about 5 to about 30 weight % (based on total dry imageable layer weight). The particular amount needed for this purpose would be readily apparent to one skilled in the art, depending upon the specific compound used and the properties of the alkaline developer to be used. In most embodiments, the radiation absorbing compound is present in the single imageable layer. Alternatively or additionally, radiation absorbing compounds may be located in a separate layer that is in thermal contact with the single imageable layer. Thus, during imaging, the action of the radiation absorbing compound can be transferred to the imageable layer without the compound originally being incorporated into it.

The imageable layer includes the core-shell particles described above in a sufficient amount generally to provide at least 50 weight %, and typically from about 60 to about 95 weight % of the total imageable layer dry weight.

An imageable layer comprising the core-shell particles (usually in an aqueous dispersion), one or more radiation-sensitive compounds and any other additives (described below), can be prepared by dispersion the components in a suitable solvent medium (described below).

The imageable layer can further include a variety of additives including dispersing agents, humectants, biocides, plasticizers, surfactants for coatability or other properties, viscosity builders, dyes or colorants to allow visualization of the written image, pH adjusters, drying agents, defoamers, preservatives, antioxidants, development aids, rheology modifiers, or combinations thereof, or any other addenda commonly used in the lithographic art, in conventional amounts.

Generally, the imageable layer is free of polymeric binders as the shell of the coalesceable core-shell particles typically act as their own binder in the layer once solvents are removed due to the particular shell polymers in the particles. Thus, free polymeric binder(s) are generally present in an amount of less than 20%, typically less than 10%, and more typically less than 5%, based on the dry imageable layer weight.

In some embodiments, the thermally-sensitive imageable layer is soluble or dispersible in water.

The single-layer imageable element can be prepared by applying the layer formulation over the surface of the substrate (and any other hydrophilic layers provided thereon) using conventional coating or lamination methods. Thus, the formulations can be applied by dispersing or dissolving the desired ingredients in a suitable coating solvent, and the resulting formulations are sequentially or simultaneously applied to the substrate using suitable equipment and procedures, such as spin coating, knife coating, gravure coating, die coating, slot coating, bar coating, wire rod coating, roller coating, or extrusion hopper coating. The formulations can also be applied by spraying onto a suitable support (such as an on-press printing cylinder or printing sleeve).

The coating weight for the single imageable layer can be from about 0.4 to about 2 g/m2 and typically from about 0.5 to about 1 g/m2.

The selection of solvents used to coat the imageable layer formulation depends upon the nature of the core-shell polymeric materials and other components in the formulations. Generally, the imageable layer formulation is coated out of acetone, methanol, or an aqueous solution containing methanol, ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, n-propanol, n-butanol, and mixtures thereof using conditions and techniques well known in the art.

Intermediate drying steps may be used between applications of the various layer formulations to remove solvent(s) before coating other formulations. Drying steps may also help in preventing the mixing of the various layers.

Imaging and Development

The single-layer imageable elements can have any useful form including, but not limited to, printing plate precursors, printing cylinders, printing sleeves (solid or hollow cores) known as rotary printing members, and printing tapes (including flexible printing webs). For example, the imageable members can be printing plate precursors useful for providing lithographic printing plates having hydrophilic substrates.

During use, the single-layer imageable elements are exposed to a suitable source of thermal energy such as infrared radiation, depending upon the radiation absorbing compound present in the element, for example at a wavelength of from about 700 to about 1400 nm. In some embodiments, imaging can be carried out using an infrared laser at a wavelength of from about 700 to about 1400 nm and typically from about 700 to about 1200 nm. The lasers used to expose the imageable elements are usually diode lasers, because of the reliability and low maintenance of diode laser systems, but other lasers such as gas or solid-state lasers may also be used. The combination of power, intensity and exposure time for laser imaging would be readily apparent to one skilled in the art. Presently, high performance lasers or laser diodes used in commercially available imagesetters emit infrared radiation at a wavelength of from about 800 to about 850 nm or from about 1040 to about 1120 nm.

The imaging apparatus can function solely as a platesetter or it can be incorporated directly into a lithographic printing press. In the latter case, printing may commence immediately after imaging, thereby reducing press set-up time considerably. The imaging apparatus can be configured as a flatbed recorder or as a drum recorder, with the imageable member mounted to the interior or exterior cylindrical surface of the drum. Examples of useful imaging apparatus are available as models of Kodak® Trendsetter imagesetters available from Eastman Kodak Company (Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada) that contain laser diodes that emit near infrared radiation at a wavelength of about 830 nm. Other suitable imaging sources include the Crescent 42T Platesetter that operates at a wavelength of 1064 nm and the Screen PlateRite 4300 series or 8600 series platesetter (available from Screen, Chicago, Ill.). Additional useful sources of radiation include direct imaging presses that can be used to image an element while it is attached to the printing plate cylinder. An example of a suitable direct imaging printing press includes the Heidelberg SM74-DI press (available from Heidelberg, Dayton, Ohio).

Imaging speeds may be in the range of from about 100 to about 1500 mJ/cm2, and typically from about 100 to about 400 mJ/cm2.

While laser imaging is useful in the practice of this invention, imaging can be provided by any other means that provides thermal energy in an imagewise fashion. For example, imaging can be accomplished using a thermoresistive head (thermal printing head) in what is known as “thermal printing”, as described for example in U.S. Pat. No. 5,488,025 (Martin et al.) and as used in thermal fax machines and sublimation printers. Thermal print heads are commercially available (for example, as a Fujitsu Thermal Head FTP-040 MCS001 and TDK Thermal Head F415 HH7-1089).

Direct digital imaging is generally used for imaging. The image signals are stored as a bitmap data file on a computer. Raster image processor (RIP) or other suitable means may be used to generate such files. The bitmaps are constructed to define the hue of the color as well as screen frequencies and angles.

Imaging of the imageable element produces an imaged element that comprises a latent image of imaged (exposed) and non-imaged (non-exposed) regions. Developing the imaged element with a suitable aqueous solution (described below) removes the non-exposed regions of the imageable layer and the underlying portions of any underlayers and exposes the hydrophilic surface of the substrate. Core-shell particles coalesced from the thermal imaging remain in the exposed regions. Thus, the imageable elements are “negative-working” (for example, negative-working lithographic printing plate precursors). The non-exposed (or non-imaged) regions of the hydrophilic surface repel ink while the exposed (or imaged) regions remaining in the element accept ink.

The imaged elements are developed using plain water or an aqueous solution having a pH of from about 7 to about 13 and containing one or more salts of acidic polymers such as poly(vinyl phosphonic acid), polymeric phosphoric acids, poly(meth)acrylic and copolymers thereof, copolymers containing maleic acid or other polymeric carboxylic acids where the carboxy groups are partially or fully neutralized, or a mixture thereof.

Conventional aqueous alkaline developers (for example containing silicates or metasilicates) and developers containing anionic surfactants (for example, sodium lauryl sulfate) are generally not used in the practice of this invention.

Development can be carried out in conventional processing equipment such as Mercury Mark 6 processors (Eastman Kodak Company), which equipment may include rollers or brushes to facilitate the removal of non-exposed regions in the imaged element.

Following development, the imaged element can be dried in a suitable fashion. The dried element can also be treated with a conventional finishing gum solution (for example, containing gum arabic).

The imaged and developed element is generally not heated or baked in a postbake operation after development, as it is usually not needed for printing performance.

A lithographic ink and fountain solution can be applied to the printing surface of the imaged element for printing. The exposed regions of the outermost imaged layer take up ink and the hydrophilic surface of the substrate revealed by the imaging and development process takes up the fountain solution. The ink is then transferred to a suitable receiving material (such as cloth, paper, metal, glass, or plastic) to provide a desired impression of the image thereon. If desired, an intermediate “blanket” roller can be used to transfer the ink from the imaged member to the receiving material. The imaged members can be cleaned between impressions, if desired, using conventional cleaning means and chemicals.

The following examples are provided to illustrate the practice of the invention but are by no means intended to limit the invention in any manner.

EXAMPLES

The components and materials used in the examples and analytical methods were as follows. Unless otherwise indicated, the components can be obtained from various commercial sources.

ROHAGIT 140, 166, 240 poly(acrylic acid), sodium salts were obtained from Roehm GmbH (Darmstadt, Germany) and poly(vinyl phosphonic acid) was obtained from Rhodia (Cranbury, N.J.).

Synthesis of the Inventive Core-Shell Dispersion (1a)

A 2-liter flask was filled with 800 g of distilled water in which 12 g of sodium lauryl sulfate were dissolved. The mixture was heated to 70° C. followed by addition of 180 g of styrene and 2.7 g of potassium peroxodisulfate and polymerization for 2 hours under nitrogen to form suspended particles of polystyrene. Then, 20 g of acrylic acid and 2.7 g potassium peroxodisulfate were added to the reaction mixture and polymerisation was continued for another 2 hours to form poly(acrylic acid) shells on the polystyrene core particles. The resulting dispersions were highly stable against sedimentation.

However, the dispersion was also found to contain free poly(acrylic acid) from about 80 mol % of the original acrylic acid. This would need to be removed from the dispersion before the core-shell particles are incorporated into an imageable layer according to the present invention.

Comparative Example

Synthesis of a Polymer Particle Dispersion (1b)

A 2-liter flask was filled with 800 g of distilled water in which 12 g of sodium lauryl sulfate were dissolved. The mixture was heated to 70° C. and 180 g of styrene and 2.7 g of potassium peroxodisulfate were added, followed by polymerization for 2 hours under nitrogen. The resulting dispersion was placed in a bottle.

Comparative Example

Synthesis of a Non-Covalently Bonded Core-Shell Dispersion (1c)

A 2-liter flask was filled with 800 g of distilled water in which 12 g of sodium lauryl sulfate were dissolved. The mixture was heated to 70° C. and 180 g of styrene and 2.7 g of potassium peroxodisulfate were added, followed by polymerization for 2 hours under nitrogen to form suspended polystyrene particles. To this dispersion, 20 g of poly(acrylic acid) (Mw 250,000) were added followed by stirring for 2 hours. The resulting dispersion was placed in a bottle.

Synthesis of Inventive Core-Shell Dispersion (1d)

A 2-liter flask was filled with 800 g of distilled water in which 12 g of sodium lauryl sulfate were dissolved. The mixture was heated to 70° C., and 180 g of styrene and 2.7 g of potassium peroxodisulfate were added, followed by polymerization for 2 hours under nitrogen to form suspended polystyrene particles. Then, 20 g of ethylene glycol methacrylate phosphate and 2.7 g of potassium peroxodisulfate were added followed by polymerization for another 2 hours to form polymeric shells on the polystyrene core particles. No free polymer was found in the final dispersion (using Soxhlet extraction).

Comparative Example 1a

A Comparative Example 1a imageable layer coating formulation was prepared by mixing the following components:

0.0784 g of a water-soluble IR dye (S0121 obtained from FEW),

2.430 g of the aqueous core-shell particle dispersion (1a) as described above,

2.250 g of methanol, and

0.25 g of 2% NaOH (neutralizes 20% of the COOH groups of the shell).

This formulation was coated onto and aluminum-containing substrate that had been electrochemically grained and sulfuric acid anodized to provide a dry coating weight to 0.6 g/m2. The resulting imageable element was Comparative Example 1a.

Comparative Example 1b

A Comparative Example 1b imageable layer coating formulation was prepared by mixing the following components:

0.0784 g of the water-soluble IR dye used for Comparative Example 1a,

2.430 g of the aqueous particle dispersion (1b),

0.0445 g of acrylic acid (Mw 25,000),

2.250 g of methanol, and

0.25 g of 2% NaOH.

This formulation was coated onto the same aluminum-containing substrate described for Comparative Example 1a to provide a dry coating weight of 0.6 g/m2 for Comparative Example 1b.

Comparative Example 1c

A Comparative Example 1c imageable layer coating formulation was prepared by mixing the following components:

0.0784 g of the water-soluble IR dye described for Comparative Example 1a,

2.430 g of the aqueous core-shell particle dispersion (1c),

2.250 g of methanol, and

0.25 g of 2% NaOH (neutralizes 20% of the COOH groups of the poly(acrylic acid)).

This formulation was coated onto the same aluminum-containing substrate described for Comparative Example 1a to provide a coating weight of 0.6 g/m2 for Comparative Example 1c.

Invention Example 1

An Invention Example 1 imageable layer coating formulation was prepared by mixing the following components:

0.108 g of the water-soluble IR dye described for Comparative Example 1a,

3.19 g of the aqueous core-shell particle dispersion (1d),

2.70 g of demineralized water, and

2.36 g of methanol.

This formulation was coated onto the same aluminum-containing substrate described for Comparative Example 1a to provide a coating weight of 0.6 g/m2 for Invention Example 1.

The results from imaging, developing, and evaluating these four imageable elements are provided in TABLES I and II below.

For these evaluations, the exposure energy in TABLE I was determined by the durability of 10 μm test elements. The elements have to be still present after development and adhesion tape test using Tesa 4124.

The toning result was obtained by inking the printing plates with test ink T904 (Eastman Kodak) in the laboratory. Traces of ink on the developed regions were considered as toning.

Developability was measured by visual appearance of the developed regions supported by densitometric measurements using a Techkon RS400 densitometer.

The adhesion tape test was carried out by printing on a MAN Favirit 200 press.

The run length “solids” and “dot life” refer to the number of printed copies made before first pick offs in solids were detected or the dot size was reduced more than 20% of the original size.

TABLE I
ComparativeComparativeComparative
Example 1aExample 1bExample 1cInvention Example 1
Exposure energy250 mJ/cm2300 mJ/cm2300 mJ/cm2300 mJ/cm2
ToningNo toningSlight toneNo toning
DevelopabilityGoodForced rubbingFair
necessary
Adhesion tape test100 mJ/cm2 solid200 mJ/cm2 solid150-200 mJ/cm2 solid
Run length (solids) 80,00068,00070,000
Run length (dot loss)100,00080,00085,000

The imageable elements described above were imaged and developed using the solutions shown in TABLE II below. The results show that the aqueous solutions containing sodium salts of poly(acrylic acid) or copolymers formed using acrylic acid provided the best balanced properties between toning in the image background and attacking of the imageable layer coating.

Thus, polymeric carboxylic acid or phosphonic acids are suitable for development of the non-imaged regions of the imaged elements of this invention, but sulfonic acids and simple aqueous alkaline solutions are less suitable for development.

The invention has been described in detail with particular reference to certain preferred embodiments thereof, but it will be understood that variations and modifications can be effected within the spirit and scope of the invention.

TABLE II
DeveloperCoating attackToning
Water & Surfactants Solutions
WaterNoneSometimes tone
Fountain solution (Eggen)Slight attackNo tone on press
1% Na-metasilicateStrong attackStrong tone
5% Marlon NP12Slight attackStrong tone
(aryl alkylsulfonic acid sodium salt)
sodium lauryl sulfateSlight attackSlight tone
“Negative” developers
956 Developer (Eastman KodakMedium attackSlight tone
Company)
980 Developer (Eastman KodakMedium attackStrong tone
Company)
V500 Developer (Eastman Kodak)Strong attackSlight tone
Polymeric acid copolymers (sodium salts)
1% polyvinyl phosphonic acidSlight attackMedium tone
(PVPA) Mw = 15,000, pH 2
1% PVPA, neutralized with NaOHSlight attackNo tone
(pH 7)
Mw = 15,000 at pH 7
1% of a maleic acid - olefinSlight attackNo tone
copolymer sodium salt with
Mw = 12,000
ROHAGIT 140, poly (acrylic acid),Slight attackNo tone
sodium salt, pH 8, Mw 5,000
ROHAGIT 166, poly(acrylic acid),Slight attackNo tone
sodium salt pH 8, Mw 25,000
ROHAGIT 240, poly(acrylic acid),Slight attackNo tone
sodium salt pH 8, Mw 150,000